Of the community suggestions to disrupt the District's drug flow that I outlined last week, four categories form the key to success: education, recreation, treatment and law enforcement.
"Aha!" I can hear some of you say. The mayor said he was doing that already. True. But then he submitted a budget that does not do D.C. schools proud, that cuts drug treatment programs and does not come close to satisfying the need for more and better law enforcement.
At any rate, what I have in mind does not require a mayor. All it needs is concerned residents. Today, I will focus on education.
Now when I say education, I am not talking about two-bit drug sloganeering that merely whets a child's curiosity. What we need now is an all-out attack on an American society that promotes chemical relief for everything.
The District school system must stop promoting this "do as I say, not as I do" hypocrisy. In my view, there is no point to telling a kid to "just say no" to drugs when alcohol, sleeping pills and all manner of narcotics are being pushed and used by adults who claim they need relief from their unbearable lives.
Children must be taught that we need them to stay strong not just to save themselves but to save this nation. Here's how:
First, for black children who are bearing the brunt of the crisis, incorporate black history into every course, every day, all year -- not just every Friday in February. It is imperative that black children know that they are the descendants of great kings and queens, and that blacks have made great -- and unheralded -- contributions to this country.
Just as important, a progression of courses must be set up to teach the philosophy of nonviolence. They must start in elementary school, with simple meditation techniques if nothing else, and they must continue through senior high with the expectation that no youth graduates without a working knowledge of the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.
The model for such courses in nonviolence exists through the Center for Teaching Peace, which was founded by writer Colman McCarthy and is being taught at Wilson High, Georgetown Day and the University of Maryland.
"The problem is that we teach our kids early on the history, message and technique of violence beginning in the first and second grades and nothing about nonviolence," McCarthy said. "We know all about white gunmen who came to New England and killed red men and soon imported black men on whom they committed economic violence, for starters. And you have the same armed gunmen going west to steal property."
Take one of McCarthy's tests yourself. Can you identify Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Cody and Dwight D. Eisenhower?
But have you ever heard of Sojourner Truth? Or A.J. Muste, the New York minister and pacifist who urged draft resistance to wars; or Jeannette Rankin, a congresswoman from Montana who voted against entry into World Wars I and II; or Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement in 1931, or Jane Addams, a Nobel Peace prize winner who ran a Chicago settlement house?
There is a strong case to be made that the use of drugs is a large part of the violence that young people are learning on the streets -- because it perpetrates aggression and also a form of self-destruction. Clearly, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by teaching alternatives to violence to our children.
More information on the Center for Teaching Peace -- and how it can be incorporated into the D.C. school system -- can be obtained by calling 966-7682 or writing the center at 4501 Van Ness St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20016.
Next week I will discuss recreation programs for children and adults as the second most important aspect of drug abuse prevention.